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Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned professional, you should give serious consideration to attending a workshop.
But what type of workshop you consider will depend on your primary interest of photography and your budget. There are one-day workshops designed for all types of photography, wedding and portrait being the most popular, and there are weeklong workshops designed for amateurs and pros alike.
There are advantages to both. The one-day workshops are especially good for learning a new technique or understanding the business of photography. A weeklong workshop, while significantly more expensive, has the benefit of establishing a connection with your classmates and it offers an opportunity to interface with the instructor on a one-on-one basis. This bond translates into energy, especially when you are working together as a group. This energy is what sparks creativity thus generating a better understanding of this thing called photography, which makes for a successful workshop!
If you decide on taking the plunge and spring for a weeklong workshop, such as those offered at Santa Fe (which I highly recommend) then there are a few things you’ll need to know before going.
Make sure your gear is in good working order. The last thing you want is to get to your class and find your camera or strobe just went on the fritz.
If you are bringing a new piece of gear, don’t use your time at the workshop trying to figure it out. Spend quality time BEFORE the workshop to learn everything about the device. I had a classmate at a recent workshop decide to pull out his new Nikon SB-900 for the first time when we were on location in the mountains of New Mexico. Needless to say, he wasted valuable time trying to figure it out; he also enlisted the instructor’s help, though briefly, to ask his assistance, which took time away from the rest of the class.
Secondly, bring extra batteries for your camera, flash, light meter – basically anything requiring a battery. Depending on the workshop you’re taking, you could be out in the field all day, if you only have one battery and it dies, then check that day off as a failure. It would be nice to have a laptop, but that will depend on the class you decide to take. In my case, we needed to take our photos from the day’s shoot, then spend the evening selecting the best five for a critique the following day, so a laptop was required.
If your class does require a laptop, then it will more than likely need specific software such as Photoshop and possibly Lightroom and like working with a new piece of equipment, working with new software can be frustrating so make sure you’re at least proficient in knowing how to pull images off your card, open and view them, then save them to another source. A couple hours of playing with the software will save your hours of banging your head on the hotel wall at 2:00 AM because you don’t know how to import your images into Photoshop.
Third, be fearless. I didn’t know what to expect my first workshop. What I learned the first night was expect to be busy and be ready to learn. You should approach the workshop like a sponge, be prepared to absorb as much as you can. Don’t worry about your capabilities or not knowing the lingo, or if your camera is not the top of the line model; by the end of the workshop you will walk away a new photographer. You’ll be armed with all this new knowledge and skill and bouncing off the walls to put what you’ve just learned into practice.
A week-long workshop can be long and tiring. My class visited three locations during the week, each presenting different challenges. We used the workshop’s lighting gear, which is the latest and greatest.
Fourth and finally, engage your instructors. The instructors make a workshop worth the price of admission. They are working professionals who take time out of their busy schedules to spend time teaching.
To sum up my workshop experience I would say it had to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had as a photographer. Would I recommend it to another photographer? In a heartbeat! Times are tough, business may be slow, sometimes you wonder if you’ve made the right career choice, all questions I’m sure we’ve asked ourselves at some point. Well, if you want to reassure your career choice, rejuvenate your mind and enhance your capabilities, get yourself enrolled in a workshop. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a week in Santa Fe. It could be a one day workshop sponsored by your local camera shop, but no matter what it is, if you’re serious about taking the next step, do some research, find the right fit and get yourself enrolled. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Author: Fred Troilo is a corporate and freelance shooter from Philadelphia and a contributor to Photocrati’s Photography Blog. His specialty is location portraiture and lighting. See his work at fredtroilo.com.